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how to be a hero

Chapter Text

The day was bright and crisp, a lovely October afternoon. The summer heat had lingered uncomfortably long, but the air now held a sharp bite that told the townsfolk that fall had arrived. The town was small, but big enough that there were still sometimes new people to meet, new places to go, new things to try.
It was a very beautiful, almost picturesque town on the ocean's edge, where children played on the beaches after school while their parents met for some afternoon drinks in the town pub, where stone houses lined the cobblestone streets like a gate, and on top of a tall, sloping hill stood a mighty castle, home to the royal family, who's sovereign reached past the smaller houses around the side of the hill and out into the countryside, where the farmers and ranchers lived.

In town, the royal family garnered mixed emotions from almost all of the townsfolk. King Krabs was said to be a selfish and greedy monarch, and it proved to be true- those without steady jobs or stable income were essentially left to try and survive by any means necessary, since the King refused to part with his riches in order to help his struggling subjects.  The King's brother, Sir Edward, was seen as somewhat of a pariah, as many viewed him as snobby and uptight, egotistic and pompous, the very establishment that has been so historically hated of the higher class by the middle and lower.
The King's one saving grace was his children. When he first took the throne, a boat crashed off the coast of Bikini Bottom, leaving only two survivors: a young boy and a baby girl. Krabs adopted them as his own to save them from being sent back across the sea, and ever since, Prince Bobby and Princess Pearl were loved and revered by the community.

Bobby, a young man of twenty-two, was a soft soul, gentle and tender, with the kind of generosity and kindness one only learns from suffering tragedy. Bikini Bottom's citizens knew him to be a cheerful, bubbly young man who sought to help everyone in any way he could. When he came into town, he always spent time on the beach playing with the children, making sure to pay attention to each one, listen to their young voices and act enthusiastically interested in their stories. He was uniquely spirited, loved his fellow man with all his heart, and enjoyed nothing more than being happy and spreading that feeling to others.
Princess Pearl was seventeen, and she was known for her trips to the market, wherein any and everyone was welcome to walk with her through stores, chatting away. She loved to be filled in on town gossip, though none of it was mean-spirited; just playful rumors passed around. Like her brother, she was a generous soul who loved to bring smiles to people's faces; while out shopping, if someone tried on something they really liked, she'd happily buy it for them, in the name of fashion.

Both children loved their father, but his views that those who were well off should never sacrifice anything they had to help those less fabulously inclined was completely lost on them. As of late, morale in the kingdom was getting low, as the farmers and ranchers had not had a plentiful harvest due to poor aid from the Crown, and food, while not necessarily sparse, was not as abundant as it had once been. However there had been talk in the kingdom that there was unrest in the castle, that King Krabs was getting his son ready to take over as King so that he could enjoy a hearty retirement.

Bobby had heard these rumors, but didn't believe them until his father asked to speak with him that afternoon. The gathered in Krabs's chamber, Bobby sitting on the bed, looking up at his father.

"Son," Krabs began, pacing with his arms behind his back, "You are twenty-two years old. As you know, someday very soon- sooner than you think, mind you- you will inherit the throne. And when you do, I don't want you to do it alone."

"But I won't be alone." Bobby said. "I'll have you, Uncle Edward, Pearl, the people who work here at the castle-"

"That's not what I mean, son." Krabs cut him off. "I want you to have support, someone you can turn to at a moments notice. Someone who can help you rule."

When Bobby appeared still clueless, Krabs sat down next to him. "It's time for you to pick a partner, Bobby. You're a royal man now, next in line for the throne. It's time for you to wed."

"What?!" Bobby sputtered. "But I'm not ready. I don't even know anyone who I'd want to marry."

Krabs stood again and resumed his pacing. "That's why I'm organizing a ball to be held tomorrow night, in your honor. You'll socialize, drink, dance with as many people as possible, and pick someone. I sent the pages out with invitations before I brought you in here; they should be arriving in town any minute. Your Uncle is in town with them, collecting supplies."

"This isn't right." Bobby shook his head. "I want to marry someone I love, not just someone I met at a party because I had to."

"I'm not giving you a choice, son." Krabs made for the door. "Tomorrow night, beginning at six. You'll be dressed by Karen at five." He said before leaving.

Bobby flopped back on his father's bed. This wasn't at all what he wanted. He wanted to build his own life on his own time, marry someone he met who he fell in love with, come into kinghood his own way. But apparently, that wasn't going to happen.


"Shoe shine! Get your shoe shined here, just a dollar!" Patrick called across the street to a group of men passing by. They looked his way but ultimately ignored him, leaving him to slump down on the curb in defeat. He looked into his hat. Three dollars in one day. His feet ached from standing and panhandling all day, hoping and praying someone cared enough about their shoes to have them shined by him, who had no shoe shining experience, but desperately needed money. He was one of the people that the King didn't seem to care about; just a poor boy with nothing to his name but the clothes on his back and the polish he'd borrowed from the school, where he was allowed by the teacher to sleep. He had lived this way for almost ten years. His parents skipped town to avoid taxation when he was thirteen, leaving him behind. But Patrick still held hope that there was good in the world. He was of the persuasion that every person has a little bit of humanity in them, even those like Sir Edward, who had happened to be one of the people who's shoes Patrick shined that day as he was out running errands for the King. He had been his typical high-nosed self, but Patrick knew he still had a heart, somewhere. What seemed odd was that he was accompanied by five of six servants, each carrying armfulls of food and expensive-looking cloth. He had offered a shine to the servants as well, but Sir Edward had refused on their behalf.


Upon departure, one of the servants haughtily tossed a piece of paper his way. Patrick picked it up and read it.




That's tomorrow, Patrick realized. He instantly longed to attend, to eat and drink and make merry with his fellow townspeople and have a good time. But he knew his place; he was an outcast, and he'd likely spend the night alone in a corner, trying to talk to people but having them turn their back on him.

He slumped again.

Sandy huffed as she plucked the last ear of corn off of the stalk and dropped it into her basket.  Her harvest was easily half the size of last year's. Conditions had been bad that year, resulting in poor turnout for food and livestock. However, as bad as her turnout had been, she was one of the lucky ones- some of her neighbors barely had anything to take in, meaning they'd likely go hungry this winter.

"How the hell are we supposed to make a living wage?" Sandy huffed to herself, placing the basket on the concrete pad just outside her back door. She wiped at her forehead and gazed out at the land she owned. Her cows were horribly thin as they munched on the dry grass, dead from a lack of rain all summer, and she could hear the commotion wailing from the chicken coop as the fowl screamed to be fed.

"They don't care about us, never mind that we supply their food for them." She continued to rant to herself as she went inside. "We ask the royals for help, any help, 'cause we're a dying breed out here, and what do we get? Absolute cowpie. Nothin'." She rubbed her temple. "If I could just talk to the royal family, explain how badly we need their help..." She stopped herself. An audience with the Crown was next to impossible. However, one of her neighbors had stopped by on his way home from the market, and he had mentioned that Sir Edward was in town today. If she could catch him out in public, he'd have to listen to her, wouldn't be able to rudely turn her away like what happened to most people with a complaint lest he risk his reputation. Without a second thought, she tossed on her boots and coat and jumped on her horse, racing towards town.


Chapter Text

Sandy approached town not long after, still intent on her mission. As she came into the town square, she was disappointed to see that it appeared to be business as usual, not a royal in sight. However, that was not going to deter her. She decided to explore some of the more suburban parts of town; if Sir Edward truly was here, she was going to hunt him down and force him to listen to her.

The street was practically empty, so she dismounted her horse and walked alongside him, guiding him by his reigns. They passed along a few more empty streets, and Sandy's resolve was weakening. Maybe he wasn't here after all.

"Excuse me, miss." The voice came from the ground, on the other side of her horse. Sandy peeked around the animal to see who was speaking to her. Sitting on the curb was a large man, about her age, looking up at her with big earnest eyes. "Like your shoes shined, miss?"

Not really, Sandy thought, but she had a gut feeling that whatever opportunity she had come to seek was already gone. Plus, this guy seemed to be in a more desperate position than her, and she was of the helping persuasion.

"Sure." She nodded. She tied her horse to the lamppost and sat in the rickety chair set up near the polish bucket. The man knelt in front of her and lifted her left foot onto his knee, beginning to polish with a dirty old cloth. "How long you been shinin' shoes for?" She asked, wanting to make conversation.

"Not long at all, miss." The man shook his head. "Just leaned how to do it to get by."

She tapped his knee with her foot. "You can go ahead and drop the 'miss', partner. Ain't no formality here."

The man seemed to appreciate this, as he sat back on his heels, smiling as he wiped his hands on his pants before extending on to her. "The name's Patrick."

"Sandy." She replied, shaking his hand. "Pleasure to make your acquaintance, Patrick."

"You too, Sandy." He said, getting back to work in a more relaxed, less formal state. "I don't remember ever seeing you around."

"I live out in the countryside, I'm a rancher." Sandy explained. "I only come into town once every few weeks to sell off my stuff."

"Is that why you're here today?"

"No, actually, I-" Sandy was suddenly embarrassed, realizing how silly her spur-of-the-moment decision was. "I heard that Sir Edward was in town. I was hopin' to have a word with him about the way us countryfolk are strugglin'."

"Ah, you just missed him." Patrick informed her.

"Really?" She sat up straight. 

"Yeah, him and a few other guys, guards. They were out handing out these," He pulled a sheet from his pocket and handed it to her. "If you're looking to talk to a royal, you might wanna go to that ball."

Sandy scanned the invitation excitedly. "Patrick, this is perfect!" She exclaimed. "The ball is in honor of Prince Bobby. Prince Bobby is going to be KING someday! If I can talk to him, get him to understand why we need his help, then he can work with King Krabs to figure out a way to fix this poverty problem."

"It's bad here in town, too." Patrick admitted. "I'm barely scraping by. Have been for years."

"Come with me, then." Sandy said quickly.

Patrick blanched. "To a royal ball? At the castle? No, no, no no no no no. I couldn't."

"Why not?"

"I'm not necessarily the most popular guy in town." Patrick shrugged. "I'm a simple fella. I'm not much for fancy parties. I... I don't even have anything nice to wear."

Sandy appraised him for a moment. "I think my dad was about your size, I might still have a suit or two of his kickin' about." She said. She hurried to untie her horse. "Come on back to my place, we can work out a strategy for what we're gonna do and how."

Back at the palace, Edward emerged into the great hall, followed by the servants who were carrying armfuls of bags from town. He immediately began barking directions. "I think we should have the tables over by the East wall, under the windows. That should free up the floor for the dancing. We can have the musicians over by the dais, where Eugene, Bobby, and Pearl will be introduced..."

"Look at them, Karen." Sheldon, one of the palace's servants said to the royal dresser. "Going about their lives like they're invincible. Well, I think it's time to show them that even the strongest of establishments can be toppled."

"What are you suggesting?" Karen leaned into his side.

"I think we ought to take the throne for ourselves."

"And how will we do that?"

"Try and show that the young Prince isn't fit for ruling. We plan an attack on his character. When it seems like he's made a mess of everything, we'll step in with a solution we've concocted. After that, we'll be hailed heros. After that, we can sweet-talk our way right into the hot seat."


Chapter Text

"Alright, now, chin up." Karen instructed the prince as she secured his tie. She turned to the small table beside her and delicately took the crown that had been sitting there, placing it on his head. "There. Splendid. A page will be up in a half hour or so to come escort you down."

"Thank you, Karen." Bobby mustered a smile. As soon as she left his room, he let his upright posture slump, a disheartened sigh leaving his lungs. He quickly loosened his tie just so, feeling suddenly lightheaded. Not only was he being forced into doing something he didn't want to; but the future of his kinghood relied on it. He sat on his bed, trying hard to force himself to see a positive. Try as me might, however, he only felt the black hole swallow him until he stopped sinking and landed at the bottom of the sediment.

He flinched when a knock came to his door. Pearl poked her head inside before bounding in on a cloud of pink fabric that she clearly enjoyed wearing. 

"Aren't you excited?" She asked, gathering the fabric of her skirts in her fists and completing a little twirl. She caught sight of herself in her brother's mirror and quickly shifted into adjusting the silver tiara placed atop her head.

"Yeah, should be a great party." Bobby tried to sound enthused for her sake, but they were too close to ever keep something from one another.

She turned from the mirror to face him, eyebrows furrowed and a concerned frown across her face. "What's wrong? Don't you love this kind of thing?"

"I do, Pearl, but..." He huffed another sigh, his eyes flicking to the door, which was slightly still ajar. "Close it."

Pearl quickly obliged, shutting the door firmly and hurrying over to sit next to Bobby. "What's going on?"

"I'm expected to find someone to marry tonight." Bobby confessed. "Father wants me to choose a partner before I become king."

"He wants you to find someone tonight?" Pearl nearly gasped. "That's ludicrous."

"I KNOW!" Bobby exclaimed, standing from the bed and beginning to pace. "How am I supposed to do that? That kind of thing doesn't just happen, you know. I don't want to marry someone just because I have to. I'd rather give up the throne."

Pearl grabbed him by his shoulders, fearing he might burn a hole in the floor. "Don't talk like that. I'm sure father is more understanding than we're giving him credit for. You're his son, I'm sure whatever happens, he'll be supportive."

Bobby stared at the ground, his lips pressed together in a tight line. He loved his father, knew he was a good man at heart, but also knew what his priorities were, and the consequences for not delivering. "I don't know..."

Pearl waved her hand, as if swatting the idea away. "Okay, you know what? Just try and forget about that. Forget about the pressure to find a partner; pretend it doesn't exist. Let's just go to this party, we'll dance and talk to people, we'll have a good time. Just focus on having fun. And I'll be there all night to help you."

He nodded. "You're right. Thank you."

"You're welcome." Pearl grinned, adjusting his crown, which had tilted to the left. "That's what I'm here for."

There was already a lineup of people outside the castle doors when Sandy and Patrick arrived. Patrick tugged at the lapels of his pale pink suit; he already felt out of place.

"You look fine," Sandy smoothed the crumpled collar for the hundredth time, "Great, even. You'll fit right in."

Patrick stood next to her and tried not to shuffle his feet. He had fidgeted the whole way there. He wasn't often nervous, but he was suddenly overcome with the feeling of being in a new, unfamiliar environment, even though he had known this hill his whole life. He knew he was about to be thrown to the sharks, in a party full of elite socialites who knew all of the social graces appropriate for this kind of event who would likely look down on him, his clumsy feet, his aloof personality.

There are good people, he reminded himself for the millionth time to try and calm himself, and one of them is right next to you.

He stole a quick glance at Sandy, who was observing the people around them. He could tell she was impatient to get inside and find a way to talk to the royal family about her plight. He had every intention of helping her. He genuinely like her, enjoyed her boisterous personality, admired her no-nonsense attitude and most of all, her kindness. She had wasted no time in taking him in and treating him like her own kin. He had never felt so welcome anywhere.

"Ladies and gentlemen, please have your invitation slips at the ready, as they will be checked at the door." A page called out to the line. The grand doors of the castle heaved open, and the line began slowly moving forward into the palace.

"Here we go." Sandy said, determination in her voice.

"Ladies and gentlemen of Bikini Bottom, I present to you your king, Eugene Krabs, his son Prince Bobby, and his daughter Princess Pearl." Edward announced to the hall. The attendees erupted into applause as the family filed out onto the dais, waving and smiling as they had been instructed.

"Everyone, welcome!" Krabs cried when the cheers died down. "I'm excited to honor our future king with this ball. Please enjoy our selection of food and drinks, and dance 'till dawn!" He finished dramatically to another wave of applause.

Pearl hustled off of the dais and found some of her closest friends who lived in town, while Bobby remained standing next to his father, looking out on the sea of townsfolk. He felt Krabs place an arm around his shoulders. "Come on now, son. This is your party. Go socialize." He said with a wink, alluding to the very thing that Bobby was trying to forget about. He remembered his sister's words, and tried to remind himself to focus on having fun. He knew a few of the people here, and decided that a little socializing wouldn't hurt. He got down from the dais and began heading towards the refreshment table, pouring himself a cup of some concoction he hoped would help him feel less like he was suffocating. He drank all of it at once, and then poured himself another.

"Excuse me, Prince Bobby?" A voice called to him. He turned around and was faced with a mountain of a man, dressed sharply in a pink suit, his hair quiffed stylishly. The man was wringing his hands nervously, and he was beginning to sweat. 

"Hello." Bobby said, feeling a smile break out. "Do I know you?"

"No, not at all." The man shook his head and stood awkwardly for a moment before realizing what to do next. He offered his hand to be shaken. "My name is Patrick Star, I live down in town."

"It's a pleasure to meet you, Patrick." Bobby said. "How are you enjoying the party?"

"It's... Grand." Patrick decided, looking around them at the hall. "Very nice."

The two looked at each other, each unsure of what to say next but not wanting the conversation to end there. Patrick shook his head quickly, remembering the reason he was here. "Oh! Um, m-my friend, she wanted to talk to you about something. Something important."

Bobby nodded his head earnestly. "Sure, yeah, take me to her." He gestured for Patrick to lead the way. Without thinking, he looped his arm through the larger man's, so as not to lose him in the crowd, but Patrick didn't seem to mind, he even smiled down at him, so he remained.

In the far corner of the room, where the crown thinned out considerably, was a woman, pacing in little circles. Patrick reached out to grab her shoulder, and when she saw the crown upon Bobby's head, she straightened her posture and raised her head.

"Sandy, this is Prince Bobby. Prince Bobby, this is my friend Sandy." Patrick introduced.

"Just Bobby, please." He said to both of them as he shook Sandy's hand. "What can I do for you?"

"I was-" Sandy's words go caught in her throat- she hadn't expected to actually come this far. "I was hopin' to talk to you about aids for the farming community." She said, nodding at Patrick. "And the poor who live in your sovereign. You're going to be king soon, and if anybody can change the state of things for us, it's you."

Bobby nodded thoughtfully. "I agree." He said. "I'm quite disappointed in my father's lack of compassion for those in need in our kingdom. However I can help, I'm ready to listen."

"Wow. Thank you." Sandy said, slightly dumbfounded. "I didn't have time to come up with any proposals or ideas or anything today, but-"

"We can work on those over time." Bobby assured. "Thank you for bringing this to my attention, Sandy, Patrick."

"Thank you for listening." Patrick chuckled.

"I'm not such a bad guy." Bobby shrugged.

"No, not at all." Sandy shook her head.

"Bobby took both of his new friends hands. "Hey, as long as we're not talking business, would you two like to see the royal garden?"



Chapter Text

"Where is that blasted boy?" Eugene bellowed as he exited the great hall, looking around one of the back hallways of the castle. "I have some people I want him to meet, I think he'd get along with them cordially."

"Your son gets along with everyone cordially, Eugene, that's why people like him." Edward scoffed. "Why is this so important to you?"

"Is it such a crime to wish to see my only son, the heir to my throne, marry before I sail out to Davy Jones' Locker?" Eugene asked, exasperated.

Edward took a step towards his brother, wanting to get through to him before he did something he would regret. "No, but it's pushing it to try and force him into a situation he's uncomfortable with. Bobby's a smart boy; when it comes time for him to take the throne, I'm sure he'll do just fine- the townsfolk love him, and he'll have our advice, and the support of his sister. Why does it matter if he marries before he's crowned?"

Eugene sighed and shook his head. "It's just- you remember how difficult a time I had at the beginning of my reign. I was younger than Bobby is now, and I also had the support of my sibling: you. But I still struggled, I felt so alone. I had nobody to help me, to confer with me and be an official ruler by my side. I had to shoulder that burden alone. Bobby and Pearl are close, yes, and we can help guide him as best we can. But he can't rely on us forever. And God forbid something happens, like what happened when my children arrived on our shores... I barely was able to raise them by myself, and I had a whole castle to help me. I would just... Like to see him have someone on his side."

The brothers, however much they cared for each other, were at a standstill, both unable to convey their point of view to the other.

"So, Sheldon, how are we going to discredit this young prince?" Karen asked her husband. He had pulled her away from the party to begin scheming their takedown of the royal family.

"I'm not sure yet, wife. Prince Bobby's reputation amongst the townspeople is watertight; he's considered to be a well liked, respectable young man." Sheldon said, half to himself. "What we have to do is find a weakness, a vulnerability, and exploit it. We wait for his first big role as a ruler, and make him look a fool."

Karen grabbed his arm, backing them behind some trees. "Shh, I think I hear him coming."

"Ah, luck is on our side tonight." Sheldon chuckled. "An opportunity to spy must never go wasted."

Bobby led Patrick and Sandy through the gate into the royal garden, enjoying the looks on their faces as they took in the beautiful plot. "This is it." He gestured with a dramatic sweep of his arm. 

"It's grand." Patrick said, shuffling in his suit jacket. He was still uncomfortable, but he was starting to get used to his new linens, his new comrades. He was surprised at how easily he was relaxing into conversation, how he felt in place here in this beautiful garden, with these people who he barely knew, but had spent the better part of the night making a genuine effort to include him, how he was smiling without even meaning to. All of this was brand new.

"My sister and I planted it when we were kids." Bobby informed.

"Very nice." Sandy observed some of the smaller foliage around the perimeter. "Hmm. Y'know, this mint could stand to be a little further apart, maybe a little further back in the shade." She took one of the wilted leaves in her hand before straightening again. "Sorry. It's not my place to tell a royal how to plant his garden."

"Don't be silly." Bobby waved his hand in a gesture that conveyed the same message as his words. "You are a farmer, after all. You'd know these things. Not to mention that those mint plants have been growing and wilting with abandon all season." He finished with a grin that might as well have been accompanied with a little 'ding' sound.

Sandy smiled a little at that, then shrunk. 

"Oh goodness, did I offend you? I'm so sorry, what did I say?" Bobby panicked, noting how her demeanor changed.

"No, not at all." Sandy assured. "That's just the first time someone in power has acknowledged us farmers. I know it was just a little thing, but... Still. It means a lot."

Bobby placed a hand on her arm. "Sandy, I promise you, I'm going to do everything in my power to help you and all those in need." He looked between his two new friends. "That's a vow. To both of you."

"I appreciate that, I'm sure we both do." Sandy gestured on Patrick's behalf. "Things are getting dire. I'm beyond grateful for your offer to help."

"It's my pleasure, truly." Bobby nodded. "Why don't Patrick and I come down to your farm tomorrow? We can see what you really do, and start working on some kind of plan to start fixing things."

"I'm in." Patrick smiled. "I'm gonna have to return this suit anyways." He laughed. "So, your highness, is this party in your honour for anything specific? Or just for being your charming self?" Whoa. He certainly didn't mean to say that. But it had been said nonetheless, so he decided to embrace this new unexpected confidence. He sat back on the swinging bench, pushing himself back and forth on his heels.

Bobby laughed out loud and sat next to him. "Quite honestly, this is all my father's doing. He wants me to marry before I take the throne, so he threw this ball hoping I'd find someone to marry." He shook his head, a grimace quickly crossing his face. "I don't know. He can want whatever, it's not gonna change my path. I just wanna do right by the citizens of Bikini Bottom."

"Good on you, your highness!" Sandy cheered. "You do what's gonna serve you best."

"We believe in you." Patrick told him, and Sandy nodded her agreement.

"Heh. Yeah, thanks." Bobby nodded, though he was beginning to wonder whether there had been something to his father's idea after all.

After a bit more conversation, they moved deeper into the garden, laughing the whole way. Sheldon and Karen emerged from the treeline.

"Karen, I've got an idea."


Chapter Text

This morning was unusually chilly, with overcast skies that threatened rain; too little, too late. Bobby's horse clopped lazily through the village, eyes searching the streets for Patrick, who had told Bobby to find him on the East side of town before they made their way to Sandy's.

Finally he found him, wandering near the schoolhouse. "Hey!" He called out, as he was still a few feet away. He took off his cap and waved it above his head, as if his royal attire didn't already set him apart. Patrick was happy to see him, and he bounded over to him, a satchel in hand.


"What've you got there?" Bobby asked, helping him onto his horse.


"The suit Sandy lent me, plus a little trinket I found in the schoolhouse as a thank-you." Patrick explained. "Um, I have one for you, too. But I'll give 'em to you once we get to the farm."


"Aww shucks, you're too kind." Bobby swiveled on his hips to playfully elbow his friend. "So, I've never been out to Sandy's, obviously, so you're gonna have to give me directions."


"No problem. Just head down the main road into you reach the city limits."


They set off on their little journey, making what sounded like small talk, but felt like genuine conversation. That, probably, was what was most surprising to Patrick about the prince- he himself had always been called simple, dumb, boring, so he adapted to keep his sentiments short and sweet, lest people catch on that he wasn’t as smart or as interesting as others would like him to be. Patrick prefered the easy little things about life; the quiet dignity in companionable silence. But with Bobby, the conversation continued to unwind as easily as yarn from it’s ball. All it needed was a little tug.


They arrived at the farm just as the sun reached the top of the sky, every few moments peeking through the dark clouds as if to say hey, things ain’t so bad, y’know? Sandy was leaning in the doorframe, thumbs hitched on the strops of her overalls, a rag tossed over her shoulder. “Hey, fellas!” She called as they approached. “You can bring your horse on back to the barn, I think we’ve got a little spare feed to go around.”


They followed as she led them back to the barn, and soon Bobby’s horse joined the two others for a sparse meal of oats and water. “It really doesn’t look like you have a lot of extra feed here,” Bobby said, hoping he wasn’t being offensive, “I can just take her back home to give her food. Honest.”


“Don’t be silly,” Sandy clapped him on the shoulder, “What we have we have to share, right? Heya, Pat. Whatcha got there?”


“Your dad’s suit, plus some other little things.” Patrick said.


“Well come on inside, you two! It’s a bit messy, I haven’t had time to clean, but I don’t see why I couldn’t rustle us up somethin’ for lunch.”

The inside of the farmhouse did look a little worse for wear, but it was clear that Sandy had tried to make it look a little nicer, a little homier. The boys assumed that, like many farmers in the kingdom, she had inherited the land and house from her parents, who got it from theirs, who got it from theirs, and so on and so forth. 

After Sandy had poured them each a bowl of broth and sliced some bread for lunch, Patrick pulled his bag up onto the table, reaching his hands inside, obviously hoping to identify things without pulling them out. When he at last seemed satisfied, he looked at his friends, very seriously.

"Close your eyes." He said with a tone of grave importance.

Bobby and Sandy complied, and when Patrick have them the go-ahead to re-open their eyes, they saw in front of them a little knick-knack each- for Bobby, a knight, sword drawn, atop a white stallion, and for Sandy, a colourful glass dragonfly resting upon a ceramic flower.

"I know they're not much," Patrick began, "But they're just to say thanks, you know. For going out of your way to help me," he gestured to Sandy, "and for listening to me." He finished with Bobby.

"It's wonderful, Patrick!" Bobby exclaimed, holing his figurine up at face level to get a better view. "Seriously, I love it."

"It's mighty pretty indeed." Sandy examined hers, then removed herself from the table to place hers in the center of the mantle above the empty fireplace. "I think it ties the room together, don't you boys?"

"Yeah, sure does." Bobby agreed. He placed his hand over Patrick's, giving a warm squeeze. "Thank you. This means a lot."

"Yeah, thanks." Sandy gave his shoulder a nudge as she returned to the table. "Awful generous of you."

"You said it yourself, 'what we have we have to share', right?" Patrick shrugged. He didn't think his act would have generated such a response.

Sandy smirked. "That's right. Speakin' of," She shuffled in closer to the table, hands steepled in front of her, "I hope y'all don't mind if I change the subject to why you're here in the first place. As embarrassing as it is, now you see how bad it is out here, we're in dire straits. I'm hopeful we can think of something to get us sorted."

"I was thinking about this last night," Bobby matched her posture. "I think- I mean, I honestly believe that if you two appeal directly to my father, he might see your initiative as a profit motive and be more willing to help. But we need a plan."

"What if..." Patrick said, an idea slowly coming to life in his mind, "What if we raise money from the richer people in town? We can split it between the farmers and the poor in town to help get us started. The farmers can use it to make a last-minute harvest, and the could even make some odd jobs for the poor, and pay a small fee to the Crown.Once the King sees that we can boost the economy, he'd probably be willing to help contribute to our new system."

Sandy suddenly jerked back, as if she had been struck by lightning. "Pat, that's a brilliant idea!" She cheered. "But how would we raise the money?"

"We could host another ball," Bobby suggested, "And have people pay admission to get in. The socialites of this town would be more than willing to spare some extra change for a night at the palace."

"Boys, I think we've got ourselves a plan."